Snipr raises $50M to use CRISPR to modulate the microbiome

Christian Grøndahl and Morten Sommer, two of Snipr's founders. (Snipr Biome)

Snipr Biome has raised (PDF) $50 million (€43 million, DKK320 million) to take CRISPR-based microbiome drugs into clinical trials. The Danish biotech is using CRISPR/Cas to selectively target and kill bacteria with specific DNA sequences. 

Christian Grøndahl, the CEO of Snipr, began working with his co-founders on the use of gene editing to modify or kill bacteria shortly after he left Kymab in 2015. The work led to a series of patents on altering microbiota, for reasons including immune modulation, and a €2.6 million investment from Lundbeckfonden Emerge to support research into potential applications for the technology.

Now, Lundbeckfonden has joined with Dutch VC shop LSP to lead a $50 million series A round. The jump in funding follows a period in which Snipr has begun to validate its technology and refine its R&D strategy.

The breadth of the potential applications of the technology, which Lundbeckfonden highlighted when it made the seed investment, runs from the killing of multi-drug-resistant bacteria through to quality control in the food industry. In choosing where to focus, Snipr has picked out some pressing unmet needs and major market opportunities.

“We will focus initially on precision medicines for difficult-to-treat infections and precision microbiome modulation in autoimmunity and cancer,” Grøndahl said in a statement. 

Snipr has yet to publicly flesh out the specific opportunities it will target in these fields but the nature of its technology suggests some applications. If the drug candidates work as hoped, they will quickly cause double-stranded breaks in bacterial genomes, triggering the sort of rapid pathogen killing that is particularly valuable in acute settings. 

In autoimmunity and cancer, Snipr could join the wave of biotechs seeking to enhance the efficacy of drugs by modulating the microbiome and, by extension, the immune system. That idea underpins other projects including Bristol-Myers Squibb’s collaboration with Enterome and Seres Therapeutics’ plans to test SER-401 in combination with a PD-1 checkpoint inhibitor.

Snipr is trailing behind some of these projects but its different approach could give it an edge. While other companies are developing cocktails of microbes or small molecules designed to interact with bacterial pathways, Snipr plans to alter the genomes of bacteria using their own CRISPR/Cas immune system.